Mike Robbins, author of “We’re All In This Together,” gives a frank talk—straight white man to straight white man—about privilege and the responsibility that comes with it:
In her Netflix special “The Call to Courage,” Dr. Brene Brown says, “To not have the conversations (about inclusivity, equity, and diversity) because they make you uncomfortable is the definition of privilege.”
One of the realities of being in a dominant or majority group of any kind is that often we aren’t necessarily forced to think about, talk about, or address these issues. And because they can be scary, difficult, and messy to deal with, we either choose to opt-out or we simply don’t pay attention.
More deeply and even scarier to admit is that sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge or let go of our privilege because we’re worried about losing it, and afraid of what increased access and opportunity for others might mean to our own ability to succeed.
Our privilege itself and then the denial of the privilege we have are both things that make having authentic conversations about diversity difficult and make it challenging for us to do what needs to be done to create environments of real inclusion.
However, by understanding our privilege more deeply and owning it, without blame, shame, or judgment, we can genuinely address some of these complex issues and move towards creating an environment within our team and company (and society at large) where everyone has a true sense of belonging.
For better or worse, people listen to us in a particular way given our race, gender, and orientation. It may not be fair or justified (both positively and negatively), but it’s true. And even though it can be scary and uncomfortable, and some people might judge us, think we’re arrogant, insensitive, self-righteous, soft, over-sensitive, too PC, or worse, it’s time for us to step up, lean in, speak up, and do more to support the women and girls around us, and our brothers and sisters of color, everyone in the LGBTQ community, Muslims, immigrants, and any oppressed or under-represented group in our culture…i.e. everyone who is not white, not straight, and not male.
We also need to pay more attention, look, listen, and feel with as much awareness, compassion, and empathy as we can. We have to call out racism, sexism, and oppression when we see it – both personally and also in our organizations, institutions, and our society at large. This is not easy or comfortable, and isn’t usually encouraged or appreciated by those we may be calling out…but it’s essential. Sometimes we’re in a better, safer, and stronger position to call this out than the individuals or groups who are being discriminated against themselves.
And, as straight white men, we are in a unique and important position of privilege and power. We can influence change…we can stand up for kindness and compassion…and for those who need us to stand up with them or for them. We must! This moment in our history calls for our courage and strength…It’s not “someone else’s problem.” We’re all in this together…
With Love, Passion, and Courage,
Additional Podcasts from Mike Robbins
This article contains excerpts from Mike Robbins’ We’re All In This Together, published by Hay House Business in April 2020, and An Open Letter to My Fellow Straight White Men, originally published on MikeRobbins.com on November 14, 2016. This excerpts are republished here with permission.
Mike Robbins is the author of five books, including his latest, We’re All in This Together. For the past 20 years, he’s been a sought-after speaker and consultant who delivers keynotes and seminars for some of the top organizations in the world.
His clients include Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Genentech, eBay, Harvard University, Gap, LinkedIn, the Oakland A’s, and many others.
He and his work have been featured in the New York Times and the Harvard Business Review, as well as on NPR and ABC News. He’s a regular contributor to Forbes, hosts his own podcast (called We’re All in This Together), and his books have been translated into 15 different languages.